This latest Roundup features links to authoritative articles offering advice on starting a career in publishing.
The Editor’s POV is a forum for freelance editors of fiction and creative nonfiction. It’s a fabulously resourceful blog full of useful content for the freelance developmental editor.
Also worth checking out are Barbara Sjoholm’s corresponding website The Author–Editor Clinic and her book An Editor's Guide to Working with Authors.
This Roundup offers links to sites offering indispensable ancillary tools for editors and proofreaders. It includes software, macros, an in-depth article by Microsoft Word MVP Shauna Kelly, and a free book with over 400 macros.
PerfectIt from Intelligent Editing.
Paul Sensecall and Adam Bukolt's ReferenceChecker.
A range of program add-ins from The Editorium.
Microsoft Word MVP Shauna Kelly's 'How does Track Changes in Microsoft Word work?'.
● Macros for Writers and Editors by Paul Beverley.
● Macro Cookbook for Microsoft Word by Jack Lyon (US link/UK link).
Please use the Comments section if you would like to advise readers of your preferred ancillary tools.
The SfEP has about 1,600 members and associates (mostly in the UK) providing editorial services to publishers and a wide range of companies, government agencies and other bodies.
The Society provides training and professional qualifications, and publishes the online Directory of Editorial Services provided by its members. The membership communicates with each other via a number of popular email discussion lists, and the Society publishes the bi-monthly magazine Editing Matters. The membership-only SfEPWiki is a growing repository of the Society's collective wisdom and experience.
Tip: The best time to join the SfEP is on 1 January – you'll pay the full subscription, plus the processing fee, but you won't have to make any further payments until 1 March 2013, thus getting a subscription lasting 14 months for the price of 12. More details here.
In the martial art of Taekwondo, one of the life skills taught is perseverance. Thirty-seven years out of 48 amounts to roughly three-quarters of my life, so I would say that qualifies. I was a writer (by definition of character) since before I learned to form my first letter of the alphabet, but it was when I was 11 that I decided to write a novel and, indeed, had started several over the next few years.
In my childhood, not only was there no Internet, but there were no writing camps, courses, or support for young writers—at least, not in any form that was accessible to me.
With little experience and no connections, I wrote anyway, completely on my own, because I couldn't not write. I figured out the mechanics of dialogue and punctuation by examining books, and I was a closet editor.
But, as you can imagine, writing was just a frill—not a lucrative way to make a living. So I got a “real” life: went to real school, had a real family, and worked real jobs—and took a hiatus from writing for over 20 years because, honestly, who had time for that kind of luxury?
Except one day, in a new age, I discovered online courses that offered writing instruction. It was late 2005 or early 2006. And I began to learn to write.
In July 2006, I conceived my current story, BEYOND THE PRECIPICE. In the years that followed, as my novel wove itself together, my life unravelled at the same rate. And I discovered this: The worse my life got, the better my writing became. I couldn't lose!
BEYOND THE PRECIPICE came about simply because I wanted to write a novel and I had a protagonist. All my life I had one protagonist or another who worked through life’s issues, and I spent my high school and university years observing people, studying natural dialogue, and—yes—jotting down ideas on napkins in the school cafeteria. Inspired by the writing courses I took in 2006, and realizing at this stage in my life that sacrificing writing had brought me absolutely nothing, I took up writing with renewed commitment. At the Edmonton International Fringe Festival in August 2006 (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada), a musician ignited my central idea for BEYOND THE PRECIPICE, at that time still untitled. But, as time went on, I incorporated a number of messages I had about the complex world of family dynamics, unconditional love, aspirations of kids as they grow into adults, human error, guilt, and forgiveness. BEYOND THE PRECIPICE became the book’s title, which had a meaning both physical and metaphorical. The novel also unveils the unfortunate reality of how money determines whether a young person disappears into obscurity or goes on to live a full, successful life—and that sometimes we simply can’t do it on our own; we need the help of others who believe in us.
In the first half of 2009, I designated myself a writer. Not an employee who writes at night. Not an entrepreneur who provides a range of services. A writer by profession. With that new mindset, I published four articles in a career training institute newsletter by 2010. At night, I wrote the novel.
But life became the very Catch-22 I had tried to avoid, with my energies spread in all directions and, specifically, out of the office. What I really wanted to do, once again, came last, late at night after work—unpaid, as one year stretched into another, which stretched into the next. Until I sold my writing, I would not have time to write.
There was so much to learn about blogging, social media, websites, publishing, and how the craft of writing was changing—and the changes were accelerating. My dream was like a beach ball on the waves, always dashing out from under my hand just as I thought I had it in my grasp. I knew that no matter how hard I worked “after hours,” it was not enough time. And after years of working through every evening, weekend, and holiday, I was burning out.
But, not able to leave well enough alone, I was going to finish the novel that churned inside me, and send that, along with my magazine articles, out to publishers. This was not entirely a selfish motive. I was a single parent now, and I needed to be around for my kids.
The writer today has the best chance if he has a platform, a blog, and connects through social media such as Twitter, Facebook, or other formats. This puts a sample of his writing “out there,” and he can gain followers whose interest he has captured with his upcoming work. In essence, he has to be involved in his own promotion, and this starts before he ever submits the book for publishing. Today, there are more publishing options than ever before, such as self-publishing and e-books, but in spite of that, paper book publishers seem to be busier than ever.
We can now connect to the world of writing in a way the writer of the past could not. Our colleagues, instructors, and publishers need not even be in the same country! Our websites, blogs, and Facebook pages reach around the globe. Organizations such as NaNoWriMo, writers’ guilds, courses, writing camps, and even personal author sites connect us to other writers, whether in our own community or farther out. As for learning what's required for a submission package, which includes a novel synopsis and query letter, a writing course can be a good first step. Submission requirements for each individual publisher are found in The Writer's Market, which is also available online, and in The Canadian Writer's Market. There are specific versions such as Novel & Short Story Writer's Market and The Best of the Magazine Markets for Writers.
For me, the next milestone is to get paid so I can continue to write, which means I have to publish my novel. I finished BEYOND THE PRECIPICE on November 13 of this year. Mine was probably the hardest, most convoluted journey, which involved external as well as internal obstacles. I only succeeded when I intended to be a writer. But the struggle to recognize the legitimacy of the writer within is not unique. Many people with whom I have spoken share a similar story. Some didn't recognize how important writing was to them until later in life. Others weren't taken seriously or didn't think they could make a career out of it. Still others were trapped in isolation until accessible inroads into the writing world developed.
For 37 years, I waited to say that I finished my first novel. If Taekwondo teaches us to persevere, then let this be a testimonial that perseverance does eventually get you there.
People must not give up their dreams. If their dreams aren't getting any closer, and it's killing them, then they need to adjust the way they do things. They need to first change their own thought patterns, intend their goal, and then change things in their environment to make the goal accessible. I know it doesn't work with everything. I have other dreams that I may never be able to fulfill. But, at least, pick one, the most important one, and follow it to the end.
Copyright 2011 Eva Blaskovic.
Eva Blaskovic is a writer/editor based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She runs a freelance business at Sirius Word Writing and Editing Solutions and was featured by Outsource Effectively in November, 2011. Her articles focus on How-to, Business, Parenting, and Travel, and she has just completed her first novel, BEYOND THE PRECIPICE. She published four articles in 2009–2010, including ‘Mentorship: Increasing Business Success’ and ‘What to Expect From, and How to Work With, Your Writer or Editor’. Connect with Eva on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
This Roundup offers links to some excellent articles about using macros in Word, and a couple of books for macro-users, one of which is a comprehensive freebie with over 400 macros written by SfEP Advanced Member Paul Beverley.
If you know of other macros that would be of use to editors and proofreaders, please share them with us in the Comments section. When it comes to using macros, the usual caveats apply – take care with them and make a backup copy of your work before you run anything that's going to make major revisions.
The Editorium provides Microsoft Word add-ins for writers, editors and typesetters, including the popular Editor's Toolkit. There's also a newsletter that you can sign up for, as well as a great selection of free, smaller add-in programs to try. Visit The Editorium website.
The following is a list of tips for efficient and drama-free onscreen proofreading.
Hit the Save button every time you make a change. I can’t count the number of times I’ve made an amendment in Word or on a PDF only for the screen to freeze or the program to crash. On most PCs the shortcut is Control S. If the gremlins do pay you a visit, at least you know that once you’ve re-accessed your file all your amendments will be up to date.
2. Back Up Your Files
Back up your files to an external hard drive. Ideally do this once a week, especially if you’re doing a lot of onscreen work. If your computer dies on you then you’re covered. You can pick up external hard drives with loads of memory for next to nothing these days. They’re compact, too, so they won’t clutter up your home office space.
3. Use a Memory Stick
Use a memory stick for the file you’re working on and save your current job on it at the end of each working session, and certainly at the end of the day. This means that your current job file is secure even if it isn’t included in a recent full-system backup. Memory sticks are tiny and you can slot them into the side of your laptop, or the port on your desk-top’s hard drive, with ease.
4. Use a Second Screen
If you need to have several documents open at once, and don’t like having to switch between them while you work, set up a second screen. This will allow you to see two files at a glance – for example, your style sheet and the file you’re proofing.
5. Use Alt Tab
In Windows, the Alt Tab function is one of my most-used toggles. It allows you to switch between open files with your free hand, meaning you don’t have to let go of your mouse.
6. Create Bookmarks in PDFs
If the PDF you’ve been sent hasn’t had any bookmarks set up, create your own. I tend to bookmark the contents, chapter headers and bibliography. If you leave your bookmarks sidebar open you can quickly access your preferred points of entry.
Any tips you want to share? Please do add them in the Comments section so that other readers improve their onscreen experience.
This latest Roundup features links to some key international professional bodies that offer training (or guidance on training) for editors and proofreaders, as well as a recent article in which publishers give their views on the matter.
Society-based Training Information
Articles about Editorial Training
Feel free to add your recommended training providers in the Comments section so that other readers can benefit from your experience.
How Does Track Changes in Microsoft Word Work? (ShaunaKelly.com) by Microsoft Word MVP Shauna Kelly is an in-depth article that takes readers through the nuts and bolts of using Track Changes – indispensable reading for any editor or proofreader required to edit onscreen in Word, especially those who are inexperienced in using this function.
Freelance proofreading won’t make you rich. But you can earn a reasonable wage from the job if you can build up a bank of regular, trustworthy clients. With few set-up costs, no travelling expenses, and pretty much all the flexibility you want, it can be an exciting and fulfilling way of earning a crust. The question I get asked most often by those looking to break into our industry is "How much can you earn?"
There’s no straightforward answer to this – the following provide some food for thought.
In the UK, the Society of Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) recommend a minimum hourly rate of £20.25 for proofreading. The rate for copy-editing is higher and depends on what level of intervention is required. Whether you can earn this will depend on who you work for and what skills you have. Some publisher clients are moving away from hourly rates, and towards fixed rates per job. Your efficiency and ability to work comfortably in different formats and using ancillary software (onscreen – Word or Acrobat, for example) will therefore determine your hourly rate. You’ll probably improve your efficiency as you become more experienced, too. And if you work for a client on a regular basis, you’ll become familiar with their house style, which will speed you up.
Different Specialty Areas Command Different Rates
Expect to earn higher rates if you proofread science, technical or medical materials. Clients tend to prefer people with a background in these fields, and the level of technical expertise required can mean earnings at the higher end of the rates spectrum.
In the social sciences, on the other hand, the rates tend to average out lower. In my experience, social science publishers pay anything between £10 and £17 per hour. This is only a ballpark figure, however (see the point above about fixed rates per job).
The trade publishing sector rarely gets anywhere near the SfEP recommended rates. The books are diverse and fun, but you’ll have to compromise on the pay!
Setting Your Own Rates
If you are bidding on proofreading jobs online, working for indie authors, proofing for students, or focusing on the business market, you can set your own rates. Many proofreaders offer a per-word fee as well as hourly or flat-rate options. Bear in mind that work of this nature will not necessarily have been with an editor first, so it may require more intervention. Make sure your client is clear about what a proofreader does – you don’t want to agree to proofreading rates only to find out you’re copy-editing the work.
You can offer higher rates for weekend work or a fast turn-around. Or you can offer discounts for lower income groups such as students or people on benefits.
Working for Publishers and Project Management Agencies
Publisher clients and project management agencies usually set their own proofreading rates. Should they decide to accept your services, you’ll have to decide whether to accept their rates. They vary enormously.
If you’re a member of the SfEP you can access their annual Rate for the Job survey. One thing to remember is that book publishing is an expensive business, and those publisher clients that don’t have other revenue streams (subscription-based products like journals, for example) have very tight margins. Keeping editorial costs in line is crucial to profitability – meaning you may be disappointed with some of the rates being offered (£10 an hour upwards).
There’s little point in grouching about it – you’re self-employed now. No one’s forcing you to take the rate so think about what your goals are – how important the client is to you, whether they can offer you repeat work, what their name will look like on your CV – and make your decision. Try negotiating by all means, but if your client won’t budge, consider this: The highest rate isn’t always the best deal in the long run – one client offering a one-off job worth £23 per hour isn’t as financially rewarding on an annual basis as another who’ll give you monthly projects at an hourly rate of £14. Repeat work means you don’t have to spend money and time on marketing yourself, so do the maths.
Getting Started – Taking a Lower Rate or Working for Free to Get Experience
When you’re starting out, you need experience. This is not a good time to be worrying about whether you’re getting the ‘recommended rate’. Instead, think long term – go for whatever jobs you can get to beef up your portfolio; work for free if you need to. Experience counts for a lot, as do good references. Working for little now will pay off in the future, allowing you to attract new clients and be pickier about who you want to work for and what rates you’re prepared to accept.
Should You Work for a Below-Recommended Rate?
This is a hotly contested topic amongst working freelance editorial staff. Some freelance editors and proofreaders think that every time one of us accepts a ‘low’ rate we undermine the entire industry, forcing down the price. I’m not unsympathetic to this view, but I’m a pragmatist. My opinion is that it’s up to you. Once you become freelance, you’re running your own business. You have to decide how best to achieve your strategic goals. If accepting a rate that is considered ‘low’ enables you to acquire clients who provide you with regular work, clear briefs, and timely payment, then you may consider this an acceptable compromise.
Take the Long View
When making your assessments, don’t just think about the rate per job – think about what you might earn from this client over the course of a year … two years … five years. Some of my most valuable clients do pay well below the SfEP recommended rate, but I love the books they publish, I trust them to put the money in my account when they should, and they contact me time and again. They make my business sustainable – because of them I’m self-employed, not self-unemployed!
UPDATE: Since writing this article I've considered other aspects of the financial side of editorial freelancing that are important to consider when assessing what you can earn. To read more, see Proofreading – Does it Pay? Part II: Hidden savings and earning cultural capital.
Louise Harnby is a professional proofreader, the curator of The Proofreader's Parlour, and the author of Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers and Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business. She is an Advanced Professional Member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP). Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Proofreader, follow her on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, or find her on LinkedIn.
Opinion: Do We Still Need Red Pens? (BookBrunch) by Wendy Toole, professional editor, proofreader, indexer and Chair of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP).
These are the books I couldn't live without and that I recommend for any proofreader's bookshelf...
New Hart's Rules: The Handbook of Style for Writers and Editors
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publisher’s product description: ‘Twenty chapters give information on all aspects of writing and of preparing copy for publication, whether in print or electronically. New Hart's Rules covers a broad range of topics including publishing terms, layout and headings, how to treat illustrations, hyphenation, punctuation, UK and US usage, bibliographies and notes, and indexing.’
My comment: Indispensable and I love the handy little gallery of BSI symbols in the back, and the glossary of terms.
The Penguin Guide to Punctuation
Publisher: Penguin Author: R. L. Trask
Publisher’s product description: ‘Do you find punctuation difficult? Are you puzzled by colons and semicolons? Unsure of where commas should go? Confused by hyphens and apostrophes? If so, then this jargon-free and succinct guide is for you. Contains precise and up-to-date definitions of every type of punctuation mark and shows how each should be used; Gives numerous examples of good and bad usage; Explains the correct use of capital letters, contractions and abbreviations, italics, boldface and the special characters available on a word processor’
My comment: A must-have book – short and sweet, easy-to-understand examples.
New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors: The Essential A–Z Guide to the Written Word
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publisher’s product description: ‘The classic A–Z guide for everyone who works with words … The trickiest words and names all in one place for easy reference: recommended spellings, variant forms, US spellings, confusable words, foreign italicized terms, cultural references, and proper names … Superb appendices for quick reference including proofreading marks, countries and currencies, and alphabets.’
My comment: Highly recommended. A good companion to New Hart’s Rules. I turn to this time and again.
New Oxford Spelling Dictionary: The Writers' and Editors' Guide to Spelling and Word Division
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publisher’s product description: ‘Essential guidance on spelling and form, including capitalization, hyphenation of compounds, and UK and US spelling; Clear indication of both primary (preferred) and secondary points for word division at line endings; Prepared in consultation with professionals in the field, and endorsed by the Society for Editors and Proofreaders.’
My comment: Essential. No definitions, just correct spellings. Perfect desk-top size, like its companions New Hart’s Rules and New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors.
Publisher: Penguin Author: Bill Bryson
Publisher’s product description: ‘… if you want to discover whether you should care about split infinitives, are cursed with an uncontrollable outbreak of commas or were wondering if that newsreader was right to say 'an historic day', this superb book is the place to find out.’
My comment: Extremely useful and buckets of fun to read.
Pocket Fowler's Modern English Usage (2nd Edition)
Publisher: Oxford University Press Author: R. W. Burchfield
Publisher’s product description: ‘Should you use a split infinitive or a preposition at the end of a sentence? Is it infer or imply? Who or whom? What are the main differences between British and American English? Over 4,000 entries offer clear recommendations on issues of grammar, pronunciation, spelling, confusable words, and written style. Real examples are drawn from classic and contemporary literary sources, newspapers and magazines, and the Internet.’
My comment: As a proofreader, I prefer this to the denser Fowler's Modern English Usage (Burchfield; Re-Revised 3rd Edition) loved by many an editor.
English Grammar For Dummies (UK Edition)
Publisher: Wiley Authors: Lesley J. Ward and Geraldine Woods
Publisher’s product description: ‘If you're confused by commas, perplexed by pronouns, and plain terrified by tenses, English Grammar For Dummies will put your fears to rest. Packed with expert guidance, it covers everything from sentence basics to rules even your English teacher didn't know - if you want to brush up on your grammar, this is the only guide you'll ever need. Discover how to: avoid common grammatical errors; get to grips with apostrophes; structure sentences correctly; use verbs and find the right tense; and decide when to use slang or formal English.’
My comment: Grammar can be tricky, and like all grammar books this requires careful reading. But it’s presented in a light-hearted way with lots of examples.
Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers
Publisher: In association with The Publishing Training Centre
Author: Louise Harnby
Publisher’s product description: Written for those with no prior publishing or editorial experience, this practical guide takes new proofreaders and editors, step by step, through the basics of planning their business. This book won't tell you how to "do" proofreading or copy-editing. Rather, it provides the new freelancer with the tools to build a roadmap for their business journey. Chapters focus on the different aspects of editorial freelancing, training, client focus, getting experience, financial assessment, promotion, networking, tools for the job and real-world case studies.
My comment: It's not my place to comment on this book, since I'm the author, but feel free to read the endorsements from fellow international editorial freelancers and publishing professionals.
The following UK-based organizations offer proofreading and ancillary courses that you may be interested in. The list does not claim to be exhaustive; nor does it offer any particular recommendations or assessments of quality. If you are looking to move into the world of proofreading I would advise you to carry out further research and make your own evaluations. See my article Proofreading: How to Choose the Right Training Course for guidance.
Proofreaders on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook frequently comment on their preferred training courses. Many publishers also have preferred outlets for training; checking their freelance requirements with a simple phone call will help you in your decision.
For readers in North America, the education and certification section of the Copyeditors’ Knowledge Base offers an extensive list of training resources, including college programmes, for editorial freelancers. You might also consider viewing the Resources section of my website. The blue Editing & Proofreading Societies button will take you to a list of worldwide editorial associations (with links to their websites); each society's learning programmes are indicated in the notes provided.
Publishing Training Centre
Society for Editors and Proofreaders
Ron Hebbs (via cousesplus+)
The Writers Bureau
I’ve just landed on a blog where the author typographically screams their belief that proofreading courses are a "scam", "unnecessary", and that "qualifications" are "useless". The rant continues, the author arguing that they’ve never been asked to produce evidence of any qualification or completion of a course by an "official" body. And luckily for anyone looking to enter this extraordinarily crowded and competitive field, said author offers a far cheaper alternative to all those "rip-off" courses: their very own proofreading course in the form of an ebook.
Back in 2005, I spent seven months doing just the type of course this author was decrying. I opted for the Basic Proofreading by Distance Learning course run by the Publishing Training Centre (PTC), an externally assessed course run by an industry-recognized body. I also joined the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) and did the necessaries to qualify for full membership. So did I waste my money? Was I ripped off? Did the training I took on help me get to where I am now or was I kidding myself? Should I have instead invested in an ebook course that would have given me change from a twenty-pound note?
I recently discussed this issue with some of my clients, all of whom are established and respected publishing houses or project management services in the UK. What came out of the conversation led me to conclude that the training I undertook was definitely worthwhile, and membership of the SfEP has provided me with wonderful information-sharing opportunities as well as the right to advertise in their Directory. Nevertheless, there was much food for thought in the responses I received.
Thumbs up for training courses…
Out of House Publishing consider only the SfEP and PTC courses to be "useful and relevant" and Managing Director Jo Bottrill stated that he "certainly consider[s] freelancers who have completed such training much more seriously". Constable & Robinson’s website states, "Please note our minimum requirements include training from recognized establishments such as SfEP or the Publishing Training Centre." Aimée Feenan from Ashgate concurs, saying that most Ashgate staff have undertaken some sort of training at the PTC, and knowing that freelance staff are able to work to the same editorial standards means they are more likely to be hired. They also recognize the SfEP as a trusted source. And at SAGE Publications, training is considered important, with the SfEP and PTC again being the two most trusted external suppliers.
Elizabeth Clack at Edward Elgar felt "that the Publishing Training Centre and SfEP courses are good quality and are well-regarded, so it would be a plus point if someone had taken courses with them, although that's not to say that we would only consider freelances who had taken courses with these bodies". She added, "it indicates to us that the freelance has reached a certain level of proficiency and has some understanding of editing/proofreading procedures and 'best practice'. Training is especially relevant if the freelance does not yet have much work experience." Also of note here the fact that she felt that proofreading courses took away some of the risk of the unknown when taking on a new or inexperienced freelancer.
But training in itself is not enough …
Training in itself is not always enough, and some publishers feel they have had their fingers burned by relying too much on freelancers’ training credits. Increasingly publishers are using their own tests in order to evaluate competence. Indeed, Jo Bottrill was cautious of advanced membership and accreditation status within the SfEP, feeling that these did not always ensure that a freelancer met his exacting standards. Instead, he is "put[ting] more emphasis on the assessment of our own tests and analysis of live jobs. Our quality control and reporting procedures have developed over the last couple of years to ensure we have an appropriate safety net."
For Edward Elgar, "another factor when considering whether to work with a freelance is whether they have experience in a particular subject area, because many of our books are quite specialized. For instance, freelances working on our law books may have law qualifications or a background in legal work."
Ian Antcliff, one of SAGE Publications’ senior production editors, stated that training, though important, is seen as an add-on. For him, in-house experience makes for an attractive prospect, not because the editors/proofreaders are better, but rather because "it usually ensures that they are sympathetic to and understand the pressure that in-house staff are under (especially with regard to budgets and deadlines)".
Ashgate acknowledge that not every freelancer on their books has received formal editorial training – they do have people who were just exceptionally good at learning on the job and being an expert in a particular subject area is also a real plus.
Polity Press’s production manager, Neil de Cort, takes a stronger line. For him, a speculative letter with a list of training courses is of no relevance. Like most publishers, Polity receive a large number of speculative letters every year from freelancers looking for work. Experience counts every time – Neil wants to see that a freelancer has experience of working in the social sciences, and references from other publishers are key. Completion of a training course simply won’t get you on their books.
Confidence to take on the task
The training I’ve completed to date did indeed get me looked at by several clients when I was starting out. On the other hand, Polity gave me work because of my knowledge of their field of publishing and a good reference from Salt Publishing. Constable & Robinson noticed me, despite the fact that I already met their minimum requirements, because of a recommendation from the Edward Elgar production team.
However, proofreading books published by the likes of Cambridge University Press, Polity and SAGE, who, like all of my clients, have precise and exacting publishing standards, can be daunting to the "newbie". And expanding into new publishing genres, in my case from the social sciences to trade, is a different type of challenge. Externally assessed training under the wing of a skilled industry-recognized body gave me the confidence to take on these challenges and feel assured that I was ready for the task in hand.
On-the-job CPD and upgrading skills
As for the future, I’ve been wrestling with the issue of whether to upgrade to advanced membership of the SfEP. For me this will mean undertaking more training courses, since I qualify on all other fronts. I’ve no doubt that further courses will provide me with new knowledge and provide excellent networking opportunities. But will I get more work? It depends on what that training is – if it involves ensuring I can mark-up onscreen, use the preferred software packages, and deliver my projects in new formats, then yes. Ian Antcliff at SAGE emphasizes how essential it is for freelancers to have up-to-date skillsets "with regard to both onscreen editing and Word, and also with ancillary software generally – Adobe, etc. – increasingly so as we move towards onscreen mark-up of proof PDFs".
Talking to clients (or reading their blogs and tweets) about what their needs are, how the market is changing, and new ways of delivering our service may be just as informative as any course, and is probably the first thing we should do before deciding where to spend our hard-earned training cash.
In a nutshell …
So all in all, the message from my clients was that initial basic editorial training is more likely to get us noticed by publishers, but that it’s not the sole factor in determining whether they place us on their books. Experience counts for a lot, but so does flexibility over the formats in which we work. Continuing to update our skills in whatever way best suits the needs of our clients will give us the best chance of remaining their freelancers of choice.
As for that £19.99 ebook course? It simply wouldn’t have cut the mustard.
(With thanks to Edward Elgar, SAGE Publications, Ashgate, Polity Press, and Out of House Publishing for their generous contributions.)
Louise Harnby is a professional proofreader and copyeditor. She curates The Proofreader's Parlour and is the author of several books on business planning and marketing for editors and proofreaders.
Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Proofreader, say hello on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, or connect via Facebook and LinkedIn.
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I am an Advanced Professional Member of the UK's national editorial society. Visit the SfEP website for more information.
All text on this blog, The Proofreader's Parlour, and on the other pages of this website (unless indicated otherwise) is in copyright © 2011–17 Louise Harnby. Please do not copy or reproduce any of the content, in whole or part, in any form, unless you ask first.